The Colorado Avalanche' season has been like a teeter-totter on an elementary school playground.
At first they were red hot and looking to be a huge surprise. Then the teeter-totter changed so dramatically the Avalanche lost their balance.
Just when it looked like the Avalanche were going to have a very long season around the basement of the NHL, the team found out how to win again and now sit just one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Avalanche had a successful December, racking up 18 points out of a possible 30 with one game left on New Year's Eve. The month of January stands to be a huge test for the Avalanche that will go a long way toward deciding whether or not Colorado will make the playoffs.
The Avalanche will play only 12 games in the month of January, but these potential 24 points will affect the standings greatly.
Of these 12 games, nine of them are on the road. The Avalanche will see the friendly confines of Pepsi Center only three times in the first month of 2012.
After the hot start that the Avalanche had—winning six road games in a row—Colorado became unable to win on the road.
Will Colorado make the playoffs?
The other very important factor about the month of January for the Colorado Avalanche is that all but one of these games will be played against conference opponents—many of whom are currently right by the Avalanche in the standings.
The Avalanche have struggled against Western Conference teams this season and currently hold a record of 11-16-1. The worst of this is the dismal 2-9 record that the Avalanche have within their own division, so finding a way to beat these teams is absolutely necessary.
If the Avalanche can go 7-5 or better, then Colorado will be rapidly approaching 60 points and will be in a good spot going into their last 30 games of the year.
If the Avalanche go .500 or worse, then Colorado will have an uphill battle and will be hard pressed to squeeze into the eighth seed.
Colorado has been very good lately, and have given themselves the opportunity to make a push for the postseason.
It should be exciting to see what they do with the opportunity.
Kevin Goff is a Featured Columnist for the Colorado Avalanche and NHL on Bleacher Report. For more NHL news and discussion,